These are all the Blogs posted on Monday, 24, 2012.
Monday, 24 December 2012
Bentley axes its company chaplain in case he upsets non-Christian workers: Employees start campaign to have him reinstated
From the Daily Mail and the Daily Express
Every week for ten years the Rev Francis Cooke visited the shop floor at Bentley, offering counselling and advice to the luxury car maker's workers. But only days before Christmas he has been made redundant because the company says he might offend non-Christians.
It said there were too many religions represented among the 4,000-strong workforce at its factory to warrant a Christian chaplain.
Staff have started a campaign to reinstate the vicar, who they said was an 'important figure' who had even helped one employee who had been on the brink of suicide.
Mr Cooke was directly employed by Bentley – it would pay the Diocese of Chester, which would then transfer the funds to the chaplain. He had outside roles, but this was his only paid work.
He said he had been told to leave immediately after bosses said they needed to take a 'multi-faith outlook'.
He would visit the factory in Crewe, Cheshire, once a week for six hours, and also ran Christian courses and wrote a message in the firm's newsletters. 'It is not just about offering religious services,' he said. 'I provide counselling to workers who have stresses at home such as broken marriages. . . The reason I have been given is that there are too many people of different faiths to warrant a Christian chaplain. Everyone thinks it is quite ridiculous. I was told I wasn’t wanted anymore and to leave immediately.
“There have been no complaints made against me and my position is to help people and not just those who are Christians. I am not angry but more upset because I am very fond of the workers and they trusted me.”
One employee said: “We have not been told anything official about him leaving but we have started a petition as we want him back. Everyone is really angry about it as a few of us have been on courses with him. To do this just before Christmas is shocking. He usually writes a Christmas message in the newsletter but he hasn’t done it this time. He is there for anyone, no matter what their religious faith is.”
Another worker said: “It seems really hypocritical that the firm is worried about offending religions when there is a Bentley parked outside with a Christmas tree next to it. That tree is a Christian symbol.”
Retired Bentley employee John Austin, 67, who worked at the firm for 24 years, said: “The reverend gave me a great deal of support when I needed it as I was suffering from stress. He really brought me back around and was there for me as he was there for a lot of other people. I can’t believe they have got rid of him. I know one individual who was feeling suicidal, but Francis was there for him and turned him around. He was a very important man at the factory.”
A spokesman for Bentley Motors, which is owned by the Volkswagen Group, said: “We have a wide range of faiths and want to take a multi-faith outlook. It would be very difficult to have somebody from each faith. This now gives us the opportunity to look at this and recognise the range of faiths we have here.”
Posted on 12/24/2012 3:15 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 24 December 2012
Female circumcision is a right, says imam
From The Australian. I have also heard this defence of FGM argued in England from a young man who claimed to be a medical student.
A MUSLIM leader and outspoken opponent of female genital mutilation says female circumcision, which he defines as the partial removal of the clitoral hood, is not only an utterly distinct practice, but the "divinely ordained right of a woman" under Islam.
Sydney-based Al-Ghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences and Human Development founder and president, Imam Afroz Ali, appeared on the ABC's 7:30 program in October, condemning female genital mutilation and saying he had been told by community members of its occurrence in Australia.
But Imam Afroz defines female circumcision and female genital mutilation as "two very different, and unrelated, kinds of acts; the former being permissible and the latter completely forbidden under Islamic law".
The imam, who was yesterday unable to be contacted, made the argument in a paper entitled Mutilating Facts: Setting the Record Straight About Female Circumcision & Genital Mutilation, published this year on his SeekersGuidance website.
"Islamic law permits by definition, by prophetic statement and by practice female circumcision," he wrote. "The definition under Islamic law for female circumcision is exclusively the removal of the uppermost extra skin at the top of the clitoral glans. Female circumcision in its legitimate form is a personal and human right of a woman; genital mutilation is a horrible crime."
Imam Afroz indicated he believed the practice should only be performed on post-pubescent women. The imam argued his definition of female circumcision was the same as labiaplasty, or genital cosmetic surgery, which was legal in Australia.
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists vice-president Ajay Rane said he had three main concerns about Imam Afroz's paper. "Firstly, I felt that there was confusion in the article itself. On the one hand, he's saying female circumcision is supposed to be a woman's right in Islam, on the other, he's saying it's a cultural thing," he said. "The second issue is that of consent, and the third is who does these procedures? How do you train them to understand the difference between removal of a small and large amount? How do you control that?"
Professor Rane said the American and Australian and New Zealand colleges of obstetrics and gynaecology condemned all clitoral de-hooding operations, whether defined as legal labiaplasty or cultural female circumcision. "There's no science behind them to support enhancement of sexual performance or feelings, and they can cause horrific complications," he said.
Posted on 12/24/2012 3:34 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 24 December 2012
Christianity close to extinction in Middle East
From The Telegraph:
The study warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group.
And it claims politicians have been “blind” to the extent of violence faced by Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam, it says, claiming that oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”.
It warns that converts from Islam face being killed in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Iran and risk severe legal penalties in other countries across the Middle East.
The report, by the think tank Civitas, says: “It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree.
"A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.”
It cites estimates that 200 million Christians, or 10 per cent of Christians worldwide, are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”
“Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world. That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood,” says the author, Rupert Shortt, a journalist and visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford.
He adds: “The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”
The report, entitled Christianophobia, highlights a fear among oppressive regimes that Christianity is a “Western creed” which can be used to undermine them.
State hostility towards Christianity is particularly rife in China, where more Christians are imprisoned than in any other country in the world, according to the report.
It quotes Ma Hucheng, an advisor to the Chinese government, who claimed in an article last year that the US has backed the growth of the Protestant Church in China as a vehicle for political dissidence.
“Western powers, with America at their head, deliberately export Christianity to China and carry out all kinds of illegal evangelistic activities,” he wrote in the China Social Sciences Press.
“Their basic aim is to use Christianity to change the character of the regime...in China and overturn it,” he added.
The “lion’s share” of persecution faced by Christians arises in countries where Islam is the dominant faith, the report says, quoting estimates that between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have left the region or been killed in the past century.
“There is now a serious risk that Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands,” it claims.
The report shows that “Muslim-majority” states make up 12 of the 20 countries judged to be “unfree” on the grounds of religious tolerance by Freedom House, the human rights think tank.
It catalogues hundreds of attacks on Christians by religious fanatics over recent years, focusing on seven countries: Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Burma and China.
It claims George Bush’s use of the word “crusade” after the September 11 attacks on New York created the impression for Muslims in the Middle East of a “Christian assault on the Muslim world”.
“But however the motivation for violence is measured, the early twenty-first century has seen a steady rise in the strife endured by Christians,” the report says.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq left Iraqi Christians “more vulnerable than ever”, highlighted by the 2006 beheading of a kidnapped Orthodox priest, Fr Boulos Iskander, and the kidnapping of 17 further priests and two bishops between 2006 and 2010.
“In most cases, those responsible declared that they wanted all Christians to be expelled from the country,” the report says.
In Pakistan, the murder last year of Shahbaz Bhatti, the country’s Catholic minister for minorities, “vividly reflected” religious intolerance in Pakistan.
Shortly after his death it emerged that Mr Bhatti had recorded a video in which he declared: “I am living for my community and for suffering people and I will die to defend their rights.
"I prefer to die for my principles and for the justice of my community rather than to compromise. I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us.”
The report also warns that Christians in India have faced years of violence from Hindu extremists. In 2010 scores of attacks on Christians and church property were carried out in Karnataka, a state in south west India.
And while many people are aware of the oppression faced in Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy activists, targeted abuse of Christians in the country has been given little exposure, the report says.
In some areas of Burma the government has clamped down on Christian protesters by restricting the building of new churches.
“Openly professing Christians employed in government service find it virtually impossible to get promotion,” it adds.
Posted on 12/24/2012 4:06 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 24 December 2012
The Taxman Giveth?
I happened to be in France when Gerard Depardieu, the most famous French actor in the world, announced that he was expatriating himself to Belgium for fiscal reasons, and furthermore was renouncing his French citizenship. He was fed up with paying ever-higher taxes, and with being the object of envy and hatred because of his wealth. He has put his Parisian house up for sale – for €50 million.
It is rather difficult for most of us to take the suffering of such a man very seriously. His well-publicised drunken conduct – urinating in the aisle of a passenger plane, for example – has undermined in advance what little sympathy we might otherwise have had for him.
His decision was the subject of conversation round the table at lunch. Most of the comment was unfavourable, as might be expected, but one remark caught my attention. It was that Depardieu had nothing to complain of because he was rich only because the state allowed him to be rich.
I do not think that the person who said this meant that the foundation of Depardieu’s fortune was his appearance in state-subsidised films, and that therefore what the state gave the state could rightfully take back. And certainly there seems something unsavoury about state-derived artistic fortunes, if only because the state as a patron tends to be less discriminating aesthetically than a genuine aristocracy.
No; what my interlocutor at lunch meant was that it was up to the state how much money we should each be allowed, a proposition that to me is deeply sinister. It means that, far from the state being the creature of the people, the people are the creatures of the state: not government of the people, for the people, by the people, but people of the government, by the government and for the government.
This was France, after all, land of Colbert, not Britain, land of Adam Smith: but are we so very different in Britain, whose people, supposedly, never, never will be slaves? Having joyfully handed over responsibility for almost everything to the government, we now are alarmed to discover that the government demands that we account for ourselves to it for almost all that we do. Wholesale expropriation of our wealth, either directly or by stealth, in the name of meeting its obligations towards us, is now to be expected. But we need not fear: we shall always be allowed some pocket-money for essentials such as pornography and Sky Sports.
First published in The Salisbury Review.
Posted on 12/24/2012 5:39 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Monday, 24 December 2012
My Afternoons With Margueritte
Posted on 12/24/2012 5:48 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 24 December 2012
Afghan policewoman shoots dead American in Kabul
An Afghan policewoman
shot dead an American contractor in Kabul's police headquarters in what appeared to be the first insider attack by a female member of the local security forces.
The officer killed the contractor with a single shot from her service pistol, Afghan officials said, and her motive was not immediately clear.
The killing means around 60 troops and civilian workers have been shot dead by their allies this year, accounting for around one-in-seven of all international deaths in the Afghan campaign in 2012.
The police woman was arrested after the killing and was on Monday being questioned. Mohammad Daoud Amin, Kabul's deputy police chief, told the AP news agency she was called Nargas and was a mother of four. She had worked for a human rights department of the police for two years and was licensed to carry a pistol. He did not know if the killer and victim had known each other.
Also on Monday, police said an officer at a checkpoint in northern Afghanistan shot dead five of his colleagues and then joined the insurgents.
Posted on 12/24/2012 8:18 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 24 December 2012
Newtownâ€™s Unanswerable Questions
The horrific massacre of the innocents in Newtown was bound to result in a search for preventive action so that nothing like it could ever happen again, and hence also for its real or final cause. To ward off fatalism, we tell ourselves that the massacre could, and therefore that it should, have been prevented; or alternatively, that it should, and therefore that it could, have been prevented. But as the cacophony of opinion demonstrates, the world is an irreducibly complex place. Agreement about what ought to have been done has all too predictably not been reached.
It is tempting to argue that the perpetrator must have been insane, for if such a person isn’t insane, who is? We close the circle by then explaining his action by his insanity. In other words, we know the perpetrator was insane because he did x, and that he did x because he was insane. Molière satirized such reasoning 300 years ago: the doctor explains that opium makes people sleepy because of its dormitive quality. Let us suppose for the sake of argument, however, that the perpetrator did have a psychiatric condition that could have been diagnosed before his terrible act: What follows from this?
First, he was of age (20) to refuse to see a doctor if he so wished, and he might very well have so wished. By all accounts, there were no grounds on which psychiatric attention could have been forced upon him. He was strange, he was socially isolated, his mother worried about him; but he was a good student and had committed no acts that would have justified compulsory treatment, as would have been the case if (for example) he had attacked someone under the influence of delusion.
Second, even if he had agreed to consult a psychiatrist, there is no certainty that the psychiatrist could have done anything for him and thus averted the disaster. Nor would the psychiatrist necessarily have had any reason to suspect a mass killing as a possible outcome in this case; the best predictor of future behavior is, after all, past behavior, and the killer had (as far as has been revealed) no history of violence. Further, the psychiatrist would probably have seen several, perhaps many, similar cases that did not end in mass killing—an outcome that after all remains rare. The Newtown killing might have taken a psychiatrist by surprise as much as anyone else.
In fact, psychiatrists are no better than others at predicting violence by disturbed people, except possibly among the psychotic. They tend to overestimate the dangers, and in making predictions, they face the problem of the false positive and the false negative. In the case of a false positive, you think that someone is dangerous when he isn’t; in the case of a false negative, that he is not dangerous when he is. False predictions of rare events (such as mass killings) generally outweigh true ones by a large factor—an important point to remember, especially if you wish to grant or withdraw civil liberties on the basis of such predictions.
Not long ago, I was asked to participate in an inquiry into a spate of murders committed by psychiatric patients. The killings seemed to be statistically abnormal (recalculation showed that they were not). We were asked to determine whether there was a single type of act, or omission, by the psychiatric services common to all the murders which might help explain them. It immediately became clear that the standard of practice was extremely low. The nurses, in particular, had filled out an immense number of forms, hundreds or even thousands of them. Many dealt with the dangerousness or otherwise of the patients and were designed precisely to avert the possibility of violence or murder. I suspected that the nurses thought that filling in forms was their work, and that when they had done this they had achieved something. They mistook process for outcome.
Yet, except in one case, I found no evidence that the low standard of practice had actually resulted in a preventable killing, despite the immense power of the retrospectoscope—the medical instrument that provides us with wisdom after the event and that sometimes does lead to improvements in practice that saves lives, though at other times it provides us only with scapegoats. In this instance, I should have been provided with, say, 20 medical records, among them those of the killers, without knowing the outcome of the cases, and asked to decide blindly which resulted in murder, and why. In the event, all I could say was that the standard of practice ought to be raised, irrespective of whether the existing standard failed to prevent the murders.
A further point: it is unlikely that we will ever have a full medical explanation of events such as the Newtown killings. Even if investigation proves that the perpetrator had Asperger’s syndrome, much would still remain to be explained. After all, people must have suffered from Asperger’s syndrome before there were any mass killings of the Newtown type. The behavioral expression of a psychiatric condition takes place in a social and cultural context.
This context is perhaps propitious to young mass killers (quite apart from the effect of imitation or emulation). In an article in Le Monde, a professor of sociology at Strasbourg University, David Le Breton, quotes a German schoolboy who killed 15 people in a school in Winnenden in 2009: “I’m fed up, I’ve had enough of this meaningless life which is always the same. Everyone ignores me, no one recognises my potential.” This reeks of resentful, narcissistic grandiosity, the result of an imperative to be an individual at a time when individuation is more difficult than ever.
First published in City Journal.
Posted on 12/24/2012 10:15 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Monday, 24 December 2012
The Sadness Of NPR Christmas
This comes from the Assistant Village Idiot. NPR is National Public Radio, a liberal bastion here in the states.
Reposted from 2006.
Year-round, NPR tends to the bittersweet, the witty rather than uproarious, the world-weary rather than the cynical, the poignant, the melancholy, the wistful. These are the attitudes of the Arts & Humanities crowd, roused to righteous anger only against those who try and rouse them to righteous anger, charmed by everything but tending to observation rather than full-bore participation. NPR has the best describers of the vignettes of daily life, of which Garrison Keillor is the archetype.
Christmas kills them. They can access faith only via nostalgia, and that well soon runs dry. Real traditions include Mom, and going to church, and immersing yourself in that whole crowd of idiot relatives. Far better to have your Christmas carols instrumental, where the mood can grip you without the trouble of the lyrics. The programs at NPR are dignified, properly appalled at the deterioration of the season into commercialism and "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer;" into the violent games or garish decorations.
This works well enough for that percentage of their audience that still holds to the Christian faith. We fear no nostalgia, and deplore many of the same things about the season. Instrumental carols and lights that don't blink are fine with us. The secular audience must be okay with this approach as well. Perhaps with NPR guiding the tour they can trust that however close the bus gets to the edge of the road it will not go over into actual religious assertion. We'll get out and take pictures of the view.
I don't have the same sense in my bones for what the Jewish storytellers are experiencing, but it seems much the same. They grew up slightly alientated from the culture's holiday, but having something of their own to build nostalgia around. Now they seem alientated from that as well. And those who had little or no faith tradition - they're trying to find something worth saving in all this. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in your shoe - it's supposed to be for weddings, but they try to make a holiday out of the same sort of elements.
Emotional distance has its advantages, and these makeshift Christmases don't seem to be tragic. There is a sort of courage about them, and shafts of real joy, and the nobility of those who refuse at least to be hypocrites. But story after story in December, as these deeply artistic and sensitive people try to capture the season, carries the theme of searching, of something missing, of arranging the dried flowers as beautifully as possible because no new ones will bloom.
Those of us who are believers are tempted to throw up our hands and say "Oh for Pete's sake! Relent for just a few days a year and allow yourself to be immersed in the faith of your youth. You'll get more out of Christmas that way. It'll do you good. Why is Jesus the one thing you can't keep?" But I think it is our own inattention to the season, our own taking it for granted, that causes us to think this way. We are so aware of how many things pull us away from Christ at Christmas that we have forgotten how dangerous it is for those outside to look in. They sense, as we should know but have forgotten, that to step inside might mean never coming back. If emotional distance does not bring warmth, it at least brings memories of warmth, with no danger of burning.
Posted on 12/24/2012 10:32 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 24 December 2012
Editor Of Website Free Saudi Liberals May Be Sentenced To Death
Saudi website editor could face death for apostasy-rights group
RIYADH (Reuters) - The editor of a Saudi Arabian website could be sentenced to death after a judge cited him for apostasy and moved his case to a higher court, the monitoring group Human Rights Watch said on Saturday.
Raif Badawi, who started the Free Saudi Liberals website to discuss the role of religion in Saudi Arabia, was arrested in June, Human Rights Watch said.
Badawi had initially been charged with the less serious offence of insulting Islam through electronic channels, but at a December 17 hearing a judge referred him to a more senior court and recommended he be tried for apostasy, the monitoring group said.
Apostasy, the act of changing religious affiliation, carries an automatic death sentence in Saudi Arabia, along with crimes including blasphemy.
Badawi's website included articles that were critical of senior religious figures, the monitoring group said.
A spokesman for Saudi Arabia's Justice Ministry was not available to comment.
The world's top oil exporter follows the strict Wahhabi school of Islam and applies Islamic law, or sharia.
Judges base their decisions on their own interpretation of religious law rather than on a written legal code or on precedent.
King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's ruler, has pushed for reforms to the legal system, including improved training for judges and the introduction of precedent to standardize verdicts and make courts more transparent.
However, Saudi lawyers say that conservatives in the Justice Ministry and the judiciary have resisted implementing many of the changes that he announced in 2007
Posted on 12/24/2012 11:13 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 24 December 2012
A Little Less Bible, A Lot More Appeal To Decency
From Ynet News: [and see comment at the end]Settlers and human rights
Op-ed: West Bank Jews claim too often and too loudly that their rights are grounded on scriptures
The case for Jews to reside in Judea and Samaria is solid. It is regrettable the world has yet to realize this. The blame must not be laid on global anti-Semitism or ignorance about the roots of the Israeli-Arab conflict, but mainly on the way Jewish rights have been justified to date.
Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria claim too often and too loudly that their rights are grounded on scriptures. This argument, legitimate as it may be to a religious Zionist or Evangelical public, is a losing argument when addressed to everyone else: It is a losing argument when presented to Muslims who can quote Islamic jurisprudence to corroborate their claims over the whole of Eretz Yisrael. It is a losing argument with secular Jews and Christians, who believe that the interpretation of international law should not be conditioned by the Bible. It is even a losing argument among those ultra-orthodox Jews who believe that the Talmud disavows contemporary Jewish claims in the Holy Land.
Given these precedents, is it really surprising that the White House, the European Union and the United Nations refuse to acknowledge the rights of Jews to reside in the West Bank? Couching the case for Jews to reside in Judea and Samaria in religious language has done incalculable damage to a cause which is primarily one of historical and human rights.
We will not dwell on Jewish historical rights over Judea and Samaria. These have been elucidated elsewhere and are well-known to most readers.[no, he's wrong -- very few people understand what the Mandate for Palestine was all about, or for that matter that it was not, could not be, extinguished by the coming into existence of the U.N., and Israel's rights to the territory assigned to that Mandate remained, and remain still] It is high-time to discuss the rights of Jews to reside in the West Bank in terms of human rights. Is this a joke? To those who conflate human rights with the goals of the Palestinian liberation movement, probably. But let us take these peace activists to task: If Jews were once again denied the right to reside in England or Spain these pacifists would be appalled. At the same time these pacifists deny analogous rights to Jews who have for decades resided peacefully in West Bank towns like Efrat and Ariel.
Lofty rhetoric. Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: AFP)
Let us believe that they genuinely support Jews' right to live in peace and security in the West. Yet by denying similar rights to Jews in the Middle East these pacifists implicitly deny universal human rights standards. Misguided cultural relativism pushes them to hold the West - and Israel - accountable to a sterling standard while excusing members of non-Western cultures for such immoral acts as bombing civilians, preaching violence in the name of God and planning the mass expulsion of religious minorities.
Israel should perhaps forgive Western pacifists for their naïveté. But can it condone the hypocrisy of the Arab leadership? If Abbas and the Palestinian Authority genuinely desired peace and reconciliation between Jews and Arabs, they would invite the Jewish residents of the West Bank to apply for citizenship in a future Palestinian state. To accept Jewish neighbors on their soil would be the best way to prove that a future Palestinian state would be a tolerant multi-religious and multiethnic society. It would also be the best way to reassure Israelis that a Palestinian state would be a peaceful neighbor. Nevertheless, Palestinian leaders openly vaunt their determination to cleanse all Jews from the West Bank.
The irony cannot be missed that Abbas, for all his lofty rhetoric about democracy and human rights, strives to establish an ethnically pure Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza.
The court of world history will praise Nelson Mandela for reassuring whites that a post-apartheid South Africa would not curtail their civil and property rights. There is no reason for the international community not to demand the same assurances from the Palestinian leadership with regards to Jews. These assurances would demonstrate that Palestinians genuinely respect the rights of minorities and that they are ready to avoid the mistakes of independence movements elsewhere in the Arab world.
As long as the Palestinian leadership does not give Jews assurances analogous to those given by Nelson Mandela, there is every reason to believe that the profligate use of the word "peace" by Abbas is a mantra devoid of all substance and honesty. Under these circumstances a Palestinian state should not be established.
It is the right and the duty of Israel's government to justify its reticence towards the establishment of a Palestinian state on human rights grounds. It is respect for universal principles of human rights - not the sacrifice of human beings to placate Islamism and Arab nationalism - that will bring genuine peace to the Middle East. Israel should remind the world about this truth.
The author's main point -- that those who rely on appeals to the Bible to support Israel -- win over those who are already won, that is those who take the Bible most old-testamentishly to heart, but will not win over others -- is certainly worth making.
But I disagree with the writer when he passes over, too quickly and too cavalierly, the legal case (that is, the one based on the intent of the League of Nations' Mandates Commission when, among other Middle-Eastern mandates, they set one up for the establishment of the Jewish National Home in Palestne): "We will not dwell on Jewish historical rights over Judea and Samaria. These have been elucidated elsewhere and are well-known to most readers."
Furthermore, the author ignores the role that the invention of the "Palestinian people" -- the most important element in the Arab propaganda campaign based on that same appeal to human rights that Rafael Castro wishes to make the basis for Israel's argument for itself -- an invention designed to obscure the nature of the unending war against not Israel but, rather, the "Infidel nation-state of Israel," by Muslim Arabs, and those Muslims who are most Muslim, and also least obviously affected by, or perhaps even hostile for historical reasons to, those same Arabs (Kurds, Berbers, and even Iranians and Turks are the Muslims who, historically, have had reason to regard Arab Musilms with fear, or hatred, or contempt, or all three, while Pakistani Musilms, who possess no historical memory of anything other than Islam, are as a consequence as fanatically anti-Israel as the Arabs themselves).
The most important thing for Israel to do is not to defend itself at all, but to go on the offensive, and to explain, using quotes from the Arabs themselves, when and how and why the "Palestinian people" were invented, and what was the intent of the Mandates system (and not failing to mention the need to fulfill the promise of the originally-envisioned Kurdish state, and also the need for a Christian haven in Lebanon and part of Syria, perhaps in some sort of loose aliance with Israel, the already established haven for the Jews in a murderous Muslim sea).
Still, the author's cri de coeur about human rights is worth reading, and his doubts about the usefulness of invoking Biblical rights (but just how many Israeli government officials do that, anyway? I haven't heard any do so, and Netanyahu invokes history, not religion) worth considering.
Posted on 12/24/2012 11:26 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 24 December 2012
Lightning Ellsworth And John Hunt Morgan
From The New York Times:
Disunion follows the Civil War as it unfolded.
In December 1862, Gen. Braxton Bragg, commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, was encamped around Murfreesboro, Tenn. Nearby, poised to attack him, was Union major general William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland, headquartered just 35 miles away in Nashville.
Bragg planned to stop the Union advance by hitting their stretched supply lines. He first sent a cavalry brigade under Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest into west Tennessee to destroy federal supply lines, then feeding Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s army advancing on Vicksburg, and thus securing his own western flank. More immediately, he ordered a powerful cavalry force under the newly promoted Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan to ride north into federally controlled Kentucky to destroy bridges on the Louisville & Nashville railroad, the vital supply line bringing food and ammunition to Rosecrans’s forces.
Morgan was the ideal commander for the risky task. A daring guerrilla cavalry commander from Kentucky, he had become a Southern hero for his bold raids into his home state to smash railroad lines, destroy federal supply bases and rally pro-rebel sentiment. His force, mostly fellow Kentuckians, knew the landscape thoroughly and yearned to break the federal occupation. Moreover, Morgan’s men were familiar with the L&N, having destroyed part of the rail line earlier that year. Bragg ordered Morgan to repeat the feat. Morgan and his 3,900-man force, a combination of cavalry and artillery, moved out from Alexandria, Tenn., on Dec. 22.
Morgan was a daring and efficient general, but a big part of his success as a guerrilla fighter came thanks to his telegraph operator, George A. Ellsworth. Ellsworth, born in Canada, was only 19 years old, but he already had years of experience in his trade. He possessed a slippery, chameleon-like personality that allowed him to blend into any crowd. In 1860 he had marched in torch-lit parades in Indiana with the paramilitary Wide Awakes, who supported Abraham Lincoln during the presidential campaign. In 1862, while working in Texas, he became wild for the Confederate cause and traveled east to join Morgan’s band in July.
Using a pocket instrument that he attached to telegraph wires, Ellsworth immediately demonstrated a quick-witted ability to intercept messages, mimic operators on the line, absorb information and tap out false messages to federal commanders. He frequently misled them about the whereabouts of Morgan’s forces, sending their powerful pursuers in the wrong direction and luring weaker forces within the raiders’ grasp.
Riding with Morgan’s staff, he often joined the advance scouts who rode ahead of the main column quickly to seize a telegraph office to prevent the operator from sending out alerts. There, he employed his skill as a mimic, imitating the cadences of the captured operator to send and receive messages. He matched Morgan’s style of warfare well: strike weak targets and avoid stronger foes, confuse with feints, exaggerate strength to overawe a more powerful enemy.
Southern newspapers published Ellsworth’s report to Morgan on his telegraphic activities during the July Kentucky raid to great acclaim. Reprinted in Northern papers, the report made Ellsworth a sensation for his devious use of wartime telegraphy. Even The Times of London remarked upon his “impudence” and “dexterity in the strategems of war.” Morgan’s men nicknamed him “Lightning.”
On the winter mission, often called the Christmas Raid, the now-notorious “Lightning” Ellsworth again rode northward into federally controlled Kentucky on Morgan’s staff. When encountering a telegraph line, troopers would shin up the poles and pull down the wire, to which Ellsworth would attach his pocket device. Years later, a fellow trooper recounted seeing Ellsworth at Upton Station on the wire, “seated on a cross-tie within a few feet of General Morgan,” who dictated misleading messages to his operator and enquired about “the disposition of the Union forces, and at the same time telling some awful stories” about where his own force was.
In his 1882 memoir, Ellsworth recounted that he spent the whole of Christmas Day listening to messages passing over the wire. He then caught up with Morgan miles ahead and reported that he learned the strength of the infantry force defending their main target: the long trestle bridges on the L&N near Elizabethtown, about 40 miles south of Louisville.
Federal commanders, alerted by their own spies to Bragg’s orders to send Morgan north, attempted to set traps for the Confederates. Well aware of Ellsworth’s deceptive skills, they warned one another to be wary of any telegraph messages they received. “The rebels have good operators, and Morgan may telegraph you direct,” wired one general.
Rosecrans planned a pincer movement to entrap the raiders. Some 10,000 troops guarded the L&N through Kentucky and Tennessee, many of them stationed in small log stockades along its route. Another 10,000 occupied other parts of Kentucky. Rosecrans diverted thousands of other troops from his planned attack on Bragg’s army in the effort to catch Morgan, telling them: “Don’t credit the big stories” that Morgan “sends abroad, but tell your men to fight them.”
Explore multimedia from the series and navigate through past posts, as well as photos and articles from the Times archive.
For all of the Union Army’s efforts to trap the rebel raiders, Morgan succeeded in evading them. Riding in daytime and through dark nights in freezing winds and sometimes soaking rain, the raiders destroyed bridges, depots and other infrastructure and overwhelmed small guard detachments strung along the railroad. Morgan reached Elizabethtown on Dec. 27, and after a sharp bombardment forced the surrender of a regiment of Illinois infantry.
He then headed for the great trestle bridges — 70 feet high and over 300 feet long — a few miles north of town and compelled the surrender of the Indiana troops guarding them. The next day Morgan’s men systematically destroyed the trestles, lighting the wooden structures in a “most magnificent bonfire.” They destroyed miles of track by heating the rails and bending them around trees. They also ripped down miles of telegraph lines.
The attack was a complete success and, given the obstacles, relatively easy. But the return trip, by a different route, was more hazardous. Dogged by pursuing forces, Morgan’s men skirted a large federal force at Lebanon in the night, aided by Ellsworth continued telegraphic deceptions. On New Year’s Day the riders could hear the distant thunder of heavy artillery fire — Rosecrans and Bragg had joined battle on Stones River, back in Tennessee. The next day the raiders slipped across the Cumberland River in Tennessee to safety. Their 500-mile raid was a success. But they failed to stop Rosecrans’s attack.
After his defeat at Stones River, Bragg retreated southward. With their regular supply line destroyed, Rosecrans’s army, reduced to half-rations, subsisted on supplies sent up the Cumberland River on steamboats heavily guarded by Union Navy gunboats and could not immediately press forward. Herculean efforts repaired the L&N bridges, and by February 1863 trains again resumed supplying Rosecrans’s army, now camped at Murfreesboro.
Ellsworth continued to serve Morgan until the general was captured in Ohio on another raid in July 1863. Ellsworth escaped and served the Confederacy on missions behind federal lines to tap telegraph wires and listen in to military communications. Captured in 1864 in eastern Kentucky while on a secret mission, he escaped to Canada, where he joined the Confederate secret agent Capt. Thomas Henry Hines in failed efforts, in collaboration with Northern conspirators, to release Confederate prisoners-of-war at Camp Douglas near Chicago. After the war, Ellsworth murdered a Kentucky man, escaped jail, attempted to rob trains in Texas and died in 1899 in Louisiana — working, again, as a telegrapher.
A thoroughly bad character, Ellsworth nevertheless prompted widespread imitation. In 1863 General Rosecrans, an aggressive intelligence gatherer, sent volunteer telegraphers into rebel-controlled eastern Tennessee to tap Confederate lines. By war’s end, both sides had intelligence operations that routinely tapped one another’s wires to steal information and send out deceptive messages. If war was hell, it was also ungentlemanly.
John Hunt Morgan was related to Daniel Morgan, a hero of the Revolutionary War, who led the American forces against Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens. I mentioned this miltary relative of John Hunt Morgan (and mine, too) in a posting about Libya on May 30, 2011: "the tiny Battle of Cowpens which Kenneth Roberts insisted determined victory for the Americans, and in which one of my relatives, Colonel Morgan, commanding the Americans, defeated the British under Banastre Tarleton ("Morgan's cunning plan at Cowpens is widely considered to be the tactical masterpiece of the war and one of the most successfully executed double envelopments of all of modern military history."
Posted on 12/24/2012 4:16 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 24 December 2012
Well, Kevin Myers, It's Been A Year
PUBLISHED BY KEVIN MYERS IN LATE DECEMBER 2011, AND POSTED AT NER ON DEC. 22, 2011:
Kevin Myers: Come back in a year and tell me about Arab Spring
Kevin Myers in the Irish Independent
It was clever of Vaclav Havel to die almost on the first anniversary of the self-immolation by Mohamed Bouazizi. The latter's death was hailed throughout the western liberal media as the dawn of a new age; so let us now celebrate a full year of self-deceit and delusion.
That idiotic term "the Arab Spring" in itself defines the historical ignorance that underwrites this myth. After all, the Prague Spring was deeply non-violent; it was crushed by tanks, but even the Soviets were careful to avoid taking human life. The spring formally ended with the self-immolation of a young student, Jan Palach, an event which appalled many Czechs, because it was the very refutation of the principles of non-violence, emotional continence and stoic endurance of the anti-Stalinist movement in Prague.
Just about everything that has happened in the Arab world in the past year has been the very reverse of that; quite literally so, for it began with a suicide. We should hesitate to analyse why anyone takes his own life, but nonetheless, in Bouazizi's case it seems to have been because he had been issued a fine by a woman police officer. Yes, it was her sex which so outraged him.
. . . what we are seeing -- as the elections in Tunisia and Egypt have shown -- is the emergence of democratically-mandated Islamism. Yes, you can call that spring, as women disappear behind the burka, and imams become judges, and alcohol is banned, and jihad takes its place on the university-syllabus;
Not merely is Bouazizi's distress at being fined by a mere woman now forgotten. So too is the fate of the American woman television reporter who was isolated in Tahrir Square and for 20 minutes was stripped and sexually assaulted by "protesters". The nadir was reached with the murder in custody of Gaddafi and his son by another group of "protesters". Watch now, as the Libyan liberals who rejoiced at the overthrow of Gaddafi face a foe far more terrible than that clown ever was.
You shouldn't need to be a student of history to know that what we have seen across the Arab world is not in any sense like Prague, and it is certainly not spring.
Yet naivety still triumphs. Listen to the optimistic words of Ganzeer, an Egyptian street-artist and protester, who was quoted thus: "Demonstrations, strikes, and other forms of protest carry on regardless because today's revolution, unlike revolutions of the past, is leaderless."
Human nature is human nature, and humans do not remain leaderless for long . . . the anti-Shah riots in Iran in 1979 appeared to be leaderless too: they heralded three decades of Islamic law, a paradise in which "adulteresses" are regularly hoisted up on mobile cranes, and slowly strangled. Comparisons are odious, yes: but nonetheless ...
No Arab country has the law-abiding middle-class that will dutifully follow the edict of a democratically elected government. Arab societies are usually divided by family, clan, sept, sect and tribe, and in such complex fissures as to prevent simple adherence to the state. And in all Arab countries, their Christian communities are now increasingly under physical threat.
The myths of the Arab Spring even infected the Nobel awards; the joint peace-prize went to Tawakkol Karman, for her role in the "pro-democracy" movement in Yemen. Yet her party is the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. How long before its fundamentalism consumes her and all the hopes and dreams of women in Yemen, a country where 25pc of girls still undergo the evil of genital-mutilation?
Come back to me in a year's time, and tell me all about the Arab Spring.
Posted on 12/22/2011
Posted on 12/24/2012 4:35 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 24 December 2012
Mark S. Miller: How Dare Anyone Tell Israel To Take Chances For "Peace"
From The Times of Israel:
How dare you tell Israel to take a chance on peace
December 20, 2012
Yoni Netanyahu lamented:
I see with sorrow and great anger how a part of the people still clings to hopes of reaching a peace settlement with the Arabs. Common sense tells them, too, that the Arabs haven’t abandoned their basic aim of destroying the state; but the self-delusion and self-deception that have always plagued the Jews are at work again. It’s our great misfortune. They want to believe, so they believe. They want not to see, so they shut their eyes. They want not to learn from thousands of years of history, so they distort it. They want to bring about a sacrifice, and they do indeed. It would be comic, if it wasn’t so tragic. What a saddening and irritating lot this Jewish People is!
Among the most saddening and irritating are those American rabbis and other Jewish leaders who arrogate to themselves the wisdom to rescue Israel from itself. These armchair strategists, often at a remove of seven to ten time-zones, offer their nostrums for Middle East peace. The most prominent feature of these gratuitous prescriptions is that Israel should compromise with those who seek her destruction and should pay any price to placate a hostile world. All that it requires for peace to break out is for the Jewish State to realize the superior judgment of her critics! Israel should “return” to the negotiating table that it apparently abandoned, where it will find a willing partner for peace.
Israel’s critics propose that Israel should say: “Can’t we all just get along? We can reason together. Let us negotiate peace in our time! You give a little and we will give a little. We will achieve peace because we can trust your word and we know that you genuinely seek to live side-by-side and arm-in-arm with us. Then we can break out the champagne. We propose a toast: ‘To our giving up land and to you making promises in writing!’ It will be so civilized! How ‘striped-pants’ of us!” Let us recall U.S. Senator William Borah’s conclusion in September 1939, after Germany invaded Poland:
Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler – all this might have been averted.
If only the ingenious arguments of her critics would be adopted by Israel and conveyed in an adult conversation with her enemies, the Jewish State would rest under her vines and fig trees!
Judaism’s eternal covenant with G-d and the Land is based upon the principle that there can be no exercise of privilege without the assumption of responsibility. When Jews lecture and hector Israel from the Diaspora, they assume a privilege to which they have no right. Since they will not incur any consequences for themselves or their families, should their suggestions be proven harmful, they have no right to speak. Since they do not assume the ultimate responsibility for Israel, the only effect upon them will be that their intermittent visits to Israel will be interrupted, or G-d forbid, ended, should Israel suffer the baneful results of their advice.
Israelis are the ones who are putting their very lives on the line and they are the only ones endowed with the right to advise their government. It is not our sons who are on the front lines against an implacable foe whose resolution to the conflict is anything but a two-state solution. Our sons will remain comfortably ensconced in their universities and will not have to man the battlements against genocidal foes and shed their blood. All this blather about Israel being “our” country is exposed as prattle given one salient fact: we do not live there! The right of saying “our country” is reserved for those who live and die in “our country. Membership has its privileges!
These self-styled peace-makers, whose “Torah” is the New York Times editorial page and who quote from the Palestinian script, scold Israel’s attempts to defend its citizens while they overlook or apologize for every enemy outrage and atrocity. These are the people who became positively giddy when Arafat extended his hand on the White House lawn. “Yes,” they cried, “peace is at hand!” They have succumbed to an old Jewish disposition: the eagerness to believe promises and to discount threats.
How ignorant they are of our history! They have accomplished the impossible: identifying “moderates” among the Palestinians. What a low bar indeed, for you don’t have to scratch deep to uncover the Palestinian goal of “reclaiming” its land through “resistance” – the land being identified as extending from the river to the sea and from the north to the south. Are there really Palestinians who do not think of Tel Aviv as “occupied” territory and who do not view Haifa as a “settlement?” The formula “Land for Peace” is only a euphemism for Israel’s piece-meal destruction. Noting their incredible capacity for self-delusion, Churchill would say to them, as he said when asked how Hitler was able to attain such power:
The malice of the wicked is reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous.
It would be enlightening to learn of one genuine and positive step taken by Palestinians that concretely demonstrates Palestinian commitment to peace. What is the warrant for all of this trust? “Take a chance on peace,” they advise. But Israel has absolutely no margin for error and any “chance” that is taken may result in destruction. The peace that might result from adopting what these naifs advocate is the peace of the grave. They are well described by the author of Psalm 82: “They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.”
It would be comic, if it wasn’t so tragic.
Posted on 12/24/2012 6:03 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 24 December 2012
A Christmas Musical Interlude: We Three Kings Of Orient Are (King's College Choir)
Posted on 12/24/2012 6:07 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 24 December 2012
A Catalonian Musical Flashmob
Without Pablo Casals.
Watch, and listen, here.
Posted on 12/24/2012 6:25 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald